Almost Famous

If presidential candidates are the bread and butter of campaigns, celebrities are the frosting. In this campaign more than ever, we’re being forced to confront the political implications of Kevin Bacon and his colleagues supporting one candidate or another. But for every Oprah or Chuck Norris, there’s a horde of famous people operating under the radar.

Take Madeleine Stowe , of Last of the Mohicans fame. Seated among the dozens of phone bankers at the Des Moines steelworkers’ headquarters, Stowe placed calls from her cell phone. When people pick up, she tells them who she is and what she does, but doesn’t elaborate. Still, she turned heads at Edwards’ New Year’s Eve party, but more in that Where have I seen her before? way than the OmigoditsMadeleineStowehowdoilook? way.

Then there are the famous people you’d never ever recognize. It was only three minutes into my conversation with Elaine Marshall that she mentioned she was the secretary of state for North Carolina, Edwards’ home state. She rarely reveals this fact while canvassing. “I’m here as Elaine Marshall,” she said. She hasn’t publicly endorsed Edwards; Secretaries of State are discouraged from vocally supporting candidates “ever since the Kathy Harris problem,” she said.

Nor does she reveal her personal connections to Edwards and his wife. Back in the 80s, when she and Elizabeth were both lawyers, they faced off at least once. “I would take her any day of the week,” she said, adding that Elizabeth was a gracious opponent. “She wouldn’t let you bleed.”